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Should Doctors Point Out Obesity?

Did you know that an estimated 66 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese? However according to a new report, only 12 percent of U.S. adults say they have ever been told by a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional that they are obese. So either a lot of people are not seeing the doctor as they should, or the doctors are not calling their patients out on being obese.

This is a sensitive subject, I know, but I am wondering what you guys think -- Should a doctor be responsible for letting his patient know if she is obese as well as the risks associated with obesity?


Join The Conversation
meganekko meganekko 10 years
it is a doctor's responsibility as a HEALTH care professional to point out such things, prevention, and suggestions to combat such conditions.
melda melda 10 years
Yes of course!
zc zc 10 years
i absolutely think doctors should point it out. obesity is linked to so many health risks and as a doctor they have the duty of letting obese patients know about the health risks they are incurring. there is always the noce way to say it but it must be said. my gp always let me know when i was at a healthy weight.
Koffie Koffie 10 years
I think that doctors should absolutely point out this to their patients. Furthermore, I think that if a doctor DOESN'T point this out, then they are not doing their job well. It should be done in the most kind manner and patients should be offered assistance and guidance to help this matter be eradicated from thier lives.
catesugar catesugar 10 years
Although the issue is no doubt littered with issues such as self-esteem and self-worth, doctors shouldn't treat patients on an ailment-by-ailment basis. Obesity, as with other problems is inter-related to many other problems, such as bloodpressure, macular degeration, osteoperosis. If an obese patient carrying a lot of weight around their middle walks in complaining of sore feet, that patient should be tested for Type II diabetes. The state of being obese isn't a problem - some lucky people may suffer little or no consequence. The problem is that obesity can be a cause of severe health problems or can be a symptom of such problems.
JessBear JessBear 10 years
If anyone should do it, it should be a doctor. I don't like all the flack that overweight people get in today's society, but a doctor shouldn't just be loking at you and going, "Oh, you're fat". They should know your history and your health, so they should be in a position to help judge your fitness level. However, I do agree with the people that pointed out that a fifteen minute office visit doesn't leave a lot of time to discuss things. If a doctor thinks it's a problem, then they need to set aside an extra ten minutes to discuss it tactfully and to find out how the patient feels, and what, if anything, he/she is doing to correct it. Just like someone else said: if you had another problem, cancer, or, heck, even a bladder infection, the doctor wouldn't just mention it and walk away, they'd give you some extra time to tell you how to fix it. I'm about 10-15 pounds overweight, 5'6" and 160-170. I've never had a doctor tell me I'm fat or need to lose weight, but my gyno always asks me how often I excersize, and then stresses the inportance of getting aerobic activity in. I think that's a good way to do it- she never tells me I need to drop a few, just that I need to exercize more to reach my optimum healthy-ness.
Julie2812 Julie2812 10 years
calamityjen calamityjen 10 years
LOL @ crazy minky! I'm going to have to use that line....
calamityjen calamityjen 10 years
I think that if a doctor, who is supposed to be concerned with your well-being, doesn't gently remind you of the health risks of being obese, he or she isn't providing the best patient care possible. I'm not obese or anything, but I could stand to lose about 40 doc has never said anything to me about my weight, even though I've been seeing him for 5 years, and he's seen my weight slowly trend up. I almost wish he would say something; I know that seems weird, but it might light a fire under my rear and motivate me a little more, you know? It's like he either doesn't want to say anything for fear of offending me, or just doesn't really care. I like it when a doc can be straightforward and tell me how it is...that's when I feel I'm getting the best care!
crazy-minky crazy-minky 10 years
"You're really obese" "Oh is that what that is? I thought my couch got smaller"
crazy-minky crazy-minky 10 years
If you need a doctor to tell you that you're obese, then maybe you are better off just dying of it. Seriously. Its not like its a silent and invisible disease.
shortashley shortashley 10 years
Controlledspin, I totally agree with you! If people are overweight, they know it, they don't need to be told it. I have a few extra pounds myself, that's why I'm on here, to get some help with losing it. I go to cosmetology school and I am constantly surrounded by these skinny, underweight, girls that don't even eat half of the time. By being around them I am constanly reminded that I need to loose that extra weight (I'm smarter than those girls though, I know better than to starve myself). I acknowledge that some people are in denial, I've known some of those people, and they do need some help. However, for those of us that know we have extra pounds (whether it is a few or a lot) we don't want to be reminded by everyone we know because most people in this situation are either 1) working to change their situation or 2) naturally built bigger and simply have to watch their diet (my sister is this way), but those with issues and denial need to be confronted head on in order to help them deal with thier problem. It is a very delicate situation that must be handled carefully. I say that if the doctor has an established history with the patient then they know their behavior and attitude and can handle the situation in the manner that they feel is the most appropriate.
Swangeese Swangeese 10 years
No. If my doctor starts harassing me about my weight, then I'll find another one. I've been overweight and I certainly didn't need the doctor to tell me the obvious. However at the time I wasn't ready to lose the weight. A person has to be ready in order to make the decision to lose weight. If shame worked, then there would be no overweight people. Furthermore it is possible to be fat and fit. As long as a person is moving and is eating a nutritious diet, then size shouldn't matter. There are many things that affect weight like hormones, medications, bacteria in the gut, medical conditions, your body's set point, psychological issues, etc. aside from the calories in/calories out formula. A study I read even said that it is healthier to maintain a certain weight rather than to lose/gain weight. And BMI charts are lousy at determing obesity. I'm thin and yet I'm still considered "overweight". Yet in the 80s, before the U.S. government revised the BMI chart, I was a "healthy" weight. It's madness to pin health to a number. And yet it's done everyday. Let's face it, a lot of stuff out there has more to do with fatphobia and selling diet products than actual health. There is a blog (not mine) dedicated to the issue called Junkfood Science.
trendyindc trendyindc 10 years
It's not so much that they don't notice it or are worried about hurting the patient's feelings, but most doctors and RNs are not reimbursed for discussing obesity. Insurance companies usually don't recognize this as a disease and under most prevention isn't covered. While this may seem like the health care professionals are being greedy, its really a problem. If you have a 15 minute appointment and that's all you talk about with your doctor, then they can't be paid for that session. If you multiply that by the number of obese patients they probably see, it would certainly be a large amount of money. Health care professionals have such high costs with operating their practices that it is understandable, but not excusable.
ethiopian_princess ethiopian_princess 10 years
P.S.: To those who disagree, obesity has everything to do with your health and wellbeing. It leaves people more vulnerable to everything from depression to diabetes. If you look at the definition, it IS a medical condition. It's not just some outside factor. There are services for upper-middle class and wealthy people that involves getting a doctor who is very invested in your care. You get a two hour physical in which essentially anything that can be wrong with you is found. When a doctor spends enough time with you, they are more likely to diagnose a problem correctly. They do an ECG even, keep you up on immunizations (boosters and what not), evaluate your mental health and pretty much do everything I think doctors should do if money wasn't such a major issue. Those doctors will ALWAYS point out a weight problem and not just that, if you're fat-skinny (5'8", 130 lbs with 35% body fat), they will also tell you. There is such a huge stigma tied to sparing people's feelings. While I think it's important to love your body no matter what, it's even more important to ensure that the body is healthy and running smoothly for the long haul. They tell smokers to quit. Sadly, the only time doctors are guaranteed to confront a weight issue is when you have developed another disease as a result of the obesity. Bedside manner matters too. A doctor just can't say "you're a cow. lose weight." I also think the same goes for smokers. They are people too and telling them they are disgusting only makes their bond to other smokers stronger. For some reason, it's totally acceptable to berate a smoker even when they aren't smoking, but if I went to McDonald's and told the many overweight and obese people there to have a salad (no cheese, no dressing, no croutons) instead of a #1 super sized, I would be looked at like some sort of monster.
ethiopian_princess ethiopian_princess 10 years
Yes, just like they point out being underweight, having heart disease, cancer or depression. I know there's a sensitivity issue with children definitely, but if your child is obese, you know it and your doctor would be neglectful if they didn't mention it and advise you on changing the family's lifestyle. If a doctor isn't pointing out obesity, they aren't doing their jobs. I would be very wary of what else they aren't telling you.
pixelhaze pixelhaze 10 years
wow, lots of comments! I voted yes, for most of the reasons already posted. Obesity is a health issue, as many people have mentioned. Now some have mentioned that sometimes a person exercises, doesnt eat junk food, etc and is still obese. Well in that case it's even more a health issue, isn't it? Something is not quite right, and it should be looked at. As for sensitivity, I think it is very important (and I am appalled by some of the doctor horror stories posted), but doctors shouldnt be afraid to speak to their patients candidly. I would argue that most health topics do tend to be sensitive, and just because you dont want to hear it doesnt make it any less true. What if a patient was found to have an STI, should the doctor not mention it because it is a sensitive issue? I also wanted to address what some people said that obese people know they're obese and don't need ot be told. Actualy this isnt completely true, I read about a study where the people surveyed just think they need to lose a few pounds but dont consider themselves obese. Obesity is defined as being 20% over your ideal body weight or at a BMI of 30. The people in the survey didn't understand that just because they didnt weigh 600lbs that they were safe from the label. They also didn't understand what a normal weight should be, and would guess much higher. I think this was the study:
Lizabelle Lizabelle 10 years
daisymae051479 first of all congrats on the weight loss! I can relate to your experience, and I was surprised to see that Dr's do not bring weight up with their patients. I put on about 20lbs after I got married and it was one of the first things my Dr addressed. I was not even out of my BMI index but he said he wanted to bring it up because if the trend continued it could be come an issue, I did appreciate it and it is a sensitive topic, but they need to address it, I believe it is part of their job.
fab4 fab4 10 years
I have to respectfully disagree with the last portion of wackdoodle's comment. I do not believe that doctors are obligated to invest emtionally in any of their patients. Although an emotional investment could possibly make a better connection between doctor & patient in certain situations, for the most part, I beleive doctors should stick with examinations, diagnosis, and prognosis. An emotional investment could create resentment if the treatment fails, or possibly cause problems with other patients that may not have the money or resources to obtain what another patient has.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 10 years
If and only if the physician has developed a personal reporie with the patient where the patient feels comfortable and feels a level of trust with the physician should the physician even broach the subject of the patients obesity and suggestions for resolving the problem. This is also the guidelines issued by the AMA and backed by the CDC, and NIH. Because weight is a sensitive issue and is often associated with other sometimes buried issues all of those organizations say unless the physician cares enough to be a shoulder for the patient to depend on then - do not broach the subject. With most doctors keeping office visits to 15 minutes or less- saying "your obese and your going to die" and then leaving to go see another patient is like a smack in the face to someone who ALREADY knows they're obese. Would a doctor tell someone with breast cancer "yeah you've got breast cancer, you will probably die or maybe not" then leave to go see another patient? No. Same deal except the doctor may end up with a few less patients and a few complaints filed with the AMA. For me when my BMI was like 47 at 5'8 - my physician never bought up my weight because my health issues were never related to my weight (no high BP, no high cholestrol, no fatty liver). She watched, waited and learned more about me and finally I asked her for help and she was more than eager to help me and to be there when I would break down in tears at my weight gains. Unless a physician is willing to make an investment in helping the patient both emotionally and physically beyond the negative and handing out booklets about your impending death then they should remain silent. Much like smokers and drinkers - fat people are well aware of the danger their lifestyle is creating. Fat people are not so stupid that they need even more people beating them down especially people they pay.
grl-in-the-world grl-in-the-world 10 years
It's a health issue, so doctors should 100% be disclosing to a person that they are in danger of weight related health problems.
EcannDallas EcannDallas 10 years
As someone who is not overweight i cannot talk from experience, but one of my bestfriends was at one point in her life. she lied to us about how she ate, and even lied to herself. conveniently forgetting cookies or mcdonalds that she would eat when no one was around. i think that hearing from a medical professional about the disasters of being overweight could be good as long as there are achievable goals that are set. the "you are what you eat" is totally true. if you eat nothing but junk food, your body turns to junk.
fab4 fab4 10 years
yes they should...and to go along with some previous comments, losing weight doesn't have to cost money. There are many excersises that only require a pair of sneakers and a sidewalk or a mat and a floor. There are many substitutes for food and drink that cost next to nothing also!
samischo samischo 10 years
My doctor pointed out that i was too skinny. If he can do this, he should be able to point out the opposite also. Weighing too much or too little can create serious health problems.
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 10 years
Yes, a doctor should tell a patient that they are over-weight/obese. Ya, the person probably already knows it however they are also in denial and they are not doing anything about it. It's like the doctor knowing you have cancer however he decides not to tell you - Unless you treat it, you'll die. There is no kind way of saying it.
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